Another Record Festival for Bruichladdich


In the week-long Islay Festival of Music and Malt, the nine distilleries on Islay take turns to open their doors, throw a party, and release a special bottling. Bruichladdich’s day, the Sunday, seems to grow in popularity and sophistication every year. Indeed, on Sunday May 26th, our previous years’ records were broken: most people attending, fastest sellout of the festival bottle, most money raised in a bottle auction for charity, highest viewing figures for the live broadcast of Adam Hannett’s masterclass, with which the day began. 

A feature of the large crowd at Bruichladdich’s Festival is not so much the number of tourists, but rather the number of locals. Craig and Petra Archibald were busy serving farmed ‘Islay Oysters’ from Craigens (800 had gone by 14:30); they have raised malting barley for us on the same farm since 2013. Ian McKerrell was here sharing his phone photos of one of last year’s barley fields being blighted by swans, to be precise 157 swans, practically a plague! Donald Fletcher, a familiar face in the farming community but relatively new barley supplier for us, was here with daughter, Jess, who worked for us while she was a student.  Those known by the name of their place, Neil ‘Kilchiaran’, Donald ‘Blackrock’, and James Brown of Octomore Farm were also celebrating with us in customary Islay style.

smart malt bar

The whisky tent had a new custom-built L-shaped bar by @altronica_ ; the bar top was made from salvaged Argyll scaffold boards stained black with a product from Glasgow french polishers Smith and Rogers, complete with a smart 1cm resin-poured inlay stripe in Bruichladdich aqua down its entire length.

It was a significant year for Octomore whisky, our super-heavily peated whisky brand named after the nearby farm.  It was the first time we had chosen an Octomore whisky as our festival bottling. The most logic-defying, powerful, and complex of whiskies, it started as an experiment to see just how much smoke could be trapped within barley during the malting process. Our daring cask selections for maturation then lead to a climax of flavours in this spirit at a relatively young age. At which point, we bottle it. It has gained cult status, ardently followed by a phalanx of experienced single malt drinkers. Evidence from Sunday’s malt bar, however, is that Octomore has broader appeal; guests were so keen to taste the festival edition that had been matured entirely in sherry casks, that it had sold out within an hour and a half, and their choice fell naturally onto the rest of the Octomore range.


'event horizon' installation

There were a few innovations this year. Our ’Event Horizon’ theme saw ticket-holders entering the tasting masterclass in warehouse 12 via a 13m ‘space’ tunnel, the black hole evoked by surround sound interpretations of recordings from real stars.

Meanwhile, the Botanist Tent featured five original seasonal cocktails, created by brand ambassadors Ewald and Abi, and Ashley from the Laddieshop’s gin tour. Gorse syrup with Islay honey, Japanese Knotweed with nettle, ‘green juice’ made from sorrel and spruce tips and meadowsweet leaves, rhubarb and a splash of smokey Port Charlotte, made for a rainbow of mixers.

Sales of gin and tonic could be heard in Parisian tones

The ceiling was hung with spheres of flowers and suspended cask hoops garlanded with foliage. There was an abundance of fragrant plants around the tent for people to pick their own garnish for Botanist and tonics. Sales of gin and tonic could be heard at that end of the tent in the Parisian tones of chief executive Valérie Chapoulaud-Floquet, who put in an impressive shift.

The jumping cosmopolitan atmosphere was aided by eclectic music and sunshine, which broke through in spite of a rainy start to the day and a poor forecast. That’s the seventh year in a row that we’ve been lucky with the weather; fuelling the local myth that the sun always shines the day dedicated to Bruichladdich, or this year we should say, dedicated to Octomore.

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